Diary – May 18, 1994


TAKE one 51-year-old national heroine who has ridden round what no woman of her age has ridden round before. Add one particularly blinkered ruling body which gets its facts wrong. And what you get is a cock-up almost worthy of the start of the 1993 Grand National. Rosemary Henderson got round Aintree twice and completed the race against all the odds only to find herself reprimanded by the Jockey Club for infringing their rules by placing a bet with William Hill – 8-1 against finishing. The Club gleaned the story from the media.
Just a couple of things though: the story was wrong. In truth, a reporter put a bet on for her husband. And anyway, how could they have been so humourless? The Jockey Club is showing signs of contrition now. But is this any way to run a horse race? What I wonder what it would have done with another equally potent horsewomen – Bodicea, say, or Lady Godiva?

NOT QUITE everyone at Glyndebourne is unreservedly looking forward to the grand reopening on 28 May. Although the new architectural design is much lauded for its acoustics and seating arrangements, I’m told there has been an oversight on the location of the staff loos. Currently, employees are using the dressing-room facilities, but once the singers arrive for the opening production of Le Nozze de Figaro, some staff will be forced to walk through 24 doors to get to the nearest conveniences.’ By the time you’ve walked back,’ says one sufferer, ‘it feels like you’ve been on an Army obstacle course.’

EXPERIENCING side-effects from his recent volte-face from press secretary at the AEEU to PA for Gordon Brown, is Charlie Whelan, 40, the ‘bright young thing’ spotted by Labour leaders at last year’s party conference, when he campaigned impressively for one member, one vote. Such are the fresh demands exacted by Mr Whelan’s new role, however, that he has been pressured into removing the gold stud he has worn in his left ear for 10 years.

Rumour has it that the command to ‘de-earring’ came from Mr Brown, who felt that it was perhaps not the most appropriate jewellery for meetings with newspaper editors. Whelan himself insists that his motives stem solely from vanity. ‘My mate told me that earrings were no longer cool,’ he explains helpfully.

PICTURED is Rara (pronouced rah]rah]) Plumptree, who, despite her eponymous-sounding name, is not a marketing executive for fruit jams, but even more exotically, London’s first executive shopper. Insisting that her name is the one bestowed by her parents at birth, Miss Plumptree bravely acknowledges her age as 37 and is newly employed by the Grosvenor House Hotel to take guests shopping – at a rate of pounds 24 an hour. Fortunately for the expensively-minded Miss Plumptree, whose reputation in retail circles is such that certain Bond Street stores close their doors behind her, most of her charges request visits only to the smartest boutiques. Anything less and Miss Plumptree’s nose wrinkles. ‘I once had to go downmarket – to Kensington High Street,’ she complains, adding: ‘The Japanese all go to Marks & Spencer – to buy 40 about pairs of shoes.’

ROBERT KEY, the rotund roads minister, was in an appropriately expansive mood yesterday. Asked at a press conference how many copies of the booklet Choosing Safety – a guide showing which cars provide most driver protection in accidents – had been printed, he replied swiftly: ‘A quarter of a million.’ Up popped a young red-faced civil servant: ‘Actually minister, the initial print run is 10,000,’ he blushed. ‘Ah well,’ said Key, ‘there was some booklet yesterday that had a print run of 250,000.’

SAD farewell to Terry Holmes, md of the Ritz Hotel for nine years. Yesterday he was given only a week’s notice to pack his bags. . .a whiff of the flavour of the management style to come.

(Photograph omitted)